Decolonizing politics : Zapatista indigenous autonomy in an era of neoliberal governance and low intensity warfare

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Mora, Mariana

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Grounded in the geographies of Chiapas, Mexico, the dissertation maps a cartography of Zapatista indigenous resistance practices and charts the production of decolonial political subjectivities in an era of neoliberal governance and low intensity conflict. It analyzes the relationship between local cultural political expressions of indigenous autonomy, global capitalist interests and neoliberal rationalities of government after more than decade of Zapatista struggle. Since 1996, Zapatista indigenous Mayan communities have engaged in the creation of alternative education, health, agricultural production, justice, and governing bodies as part of the daily practices of autonomy. The dissertation demonstrates that the practices of Zapatista indigenous autonomy reflect current shifts in neoliberal state governing logics, yet it is in this very terrain where key ruptures and destabilizing practices emerge. The dissertation focuses on the recolonization aspects of neoliberal rationalities of government in their particular Latin American post Cold War, post populist manifestations. I argue that in Mexico's indigenous regions, the shift towards the privatization of state social services, the decentralization of state governing techniques and the transformation of state social programs towards an emphasis on greater self-management occurs in a complex relationship to mechanisms of low intensity conflict. Their multiple articulations effect the reproduction of social and biological life in sites, which are themselves terrains of bio-political contention: racialized women's bodies and feminized domestic reproductive and care taking roles; the relationship between governing bodies and that governed; land reform as linked to governability and democracy; and the production of the indigenous subject in a multicultural era. In each of these arenas, the dissertation charts a decolonial cartography drawn by the following cultural political practices: the construction of genealogies of social memories of struggle, a governing relationship established through mandar obedeciendo, land redistribution through zapatista agrarian reform, pedagogical collective selfreflection in women’s collective work, and the formation of political identities of transformation. Finally, the dissertation discusses the possibilities and challenges for engaging in feminist decolonizing dialogic research, specifically by analyzing how Zapatista members critiqued the politics of fieldwork and adopted the genres of the testimony and the popular education inspired workshop as potential decolonizing methodologies.